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Keeping Pace

Tue., July 21, 2009, 6 a.m.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis

Ron Hornaday's No. 33 Longhorn/VFW/Camping World Chevrolet leads the NASCAR Camping World Driver Championship Points Standings (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR) (Chris Graythen / The Spokesman-Review)
Ron Hornaday's No. 33 Longhorn/VFW/Camping World Chevrolet leads the NASCAR Camping World Driver Championship Points Standings (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR) (Chris Graythen / The Spokesman-Review)

Summer means time for a short-track swing, for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams.

Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 20, 2009)Three of the next five races, beginning with Friday night’s AAA Insurance 200 presented by J.D. Byrider at Indianapolis Raceway Park, will be on tracks measuring less than a mile in length.

Veterans like Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) can’t wait to get the short-track action started. They should; together, they have a combined 35 short-track victories.

Both are double winners at ORP, Skinner leading all 350 of the track’s first two races flag-to-flag in 1995-96. The pair also have victories at Bristol Motor Speedway — which continues the short-track portion of the schedule next month — and no doubt are optimistic about becoming the inaugural winner at .875-mile Iowa Speedway on Sept. 5.

The axiom in the series is “do well on the short tracks and succeed in the points standings.” Only one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion has failed to win a short -rack race. Todd Bodine (No. 30 Ventrillo Toyota) is the exception, having scored all 17 of his victories on speedways.

Bodine, fourth in the current standings and trailing Hornaday by 214 points, will have to solve his short- track riddle if he is to contend for a second championship as the 2009 season nears its midpoint. Bodine hasn’t exactly been lost on short tracks — he’s finished second four times — but .686-mile O’Reilly Raceway Park has been problematic for the 2006 champion. He’s yet to record a top-five finish at ORP. Bodine’s best finish, sixth, came in 2007.

“We haven’t been perfect with our short-track program and basically you have to be perfect to be in position at the end of the race,” said Bodine.

“We’ve worked really hard on our short-track program and we’ll be trying a totally different set up this week in the Ventrilo Tundra at O’Reilly Raceway Park.”

Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. agrees being in position to win is important, but isn’t everything.

“A lot of a short-track win is luck,” said Hillman.

Sauter Chasing The Big One That Got Away

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins/Cub Records Chevrolet) very well could be coming back to O’Reilly Raceway Park as a former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner. He did everything but win the AAA Insurance 200 in 2004, leading 150 laps before caution erased a 10-second lead.

Chad Chaffin ultimately won the race after Sauter, on old tires, and Travis Kvapil tangled on a restart.

Still, Sauter finished second — and showed he had the stuff to compete with the series’ best.

“I built that truck in my garage, with a couple of buddies,” said Sauter. “We built it on a whim. There was no pressure. We just built (the truck) for fun.”

Sauter nonetheless was disappointed in the outcome.

“We went there with a truck built for fun but it was a bummer to dominate the race like that and then not win it,” he said.

So this week’s race represents an opportunity for redemption. Sauter has run well in 2009 as a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate and has a very real chance at becoming the season’s first rookie winner.

“When you have a car or truck that is handling well, ORP is a blast. It’s a great place to race because it’s a short-track atmosphere but it has big-track characteristics,” said Sauter.

“You’re not stuck on the bottom like many short tracks. You can run the middle or top, too. You have options at ORP.”

Hornaday Looks for Record-Setting Fourth Consecutive Victory At ORP

NASCAR Camping World Truck championship leader Ron Hornaday Jr. is on a roll.

How big that roll may be will be determined on Friday night at O’Reilly Raceway Park.

Hornaday won his third consecutive race on July 18 at Kentucky Speedway and became the track’s first repeat winner.

The Palmdale, Calif., driver scored the “triple” for the second time in his career — 12 years after winning races at the Milwaukee Mile, Louisville Motor Speedway and Colorado National Speedway between July 5-19, 1997.

Hornaday, who finished third at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.) in his unsuccessful bid for a fourth win, is one of just five drivers to share the consecutive victory mark.

The 50-year-old Palmdale, Calif., veteran and fellow series champion Mike Skinner  are the only drivers to accomplish the feat twice.

Hornaday, who won for the 43rd time, stands a good chance of making off with the record at ORP where he’s one of three double winners. He also leads the series in victories on short tracks.

And with midseason approaching, Hornaday is working on one of the largest points leads at this stage of the schedule. He left Kentucky Speedway with a 95-point advantage over Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).

“This is really unbelievable. I’m not sure what we’re doing but we need to keep doing it,” he said. “I’m ready to head to O’Reilly Raceway Park.”

Director’s Take: Wayne’s Words

“There are several givens at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

“One is that the pole winner virtually always chooses the outside front row starting spot because momentum is everything at ORP.

“Fans will see a short-track rarity: the field fanned out two and three wide in an attempt to go where their competition isn’t.

“And with this year’s new pit procedure, the likelihood of a mistake is multiplied by two — the number of times a driver must come down pit road for fuel and tires. Getting onto pit road at ORP is art, science and challenge.

“We’ve heard it said time after time that the cream rises to the top. You can’t say that enough about this week’s race where there’s no such thing as a ‘fluke winner.’

“All of ORP’s multiple winners, Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague, are series champions. Chad Chaffin, who scored a wild, come-from-behind victory in 2004, is the only former winner with fewer than five career wins.

“Speaking of Hornaday, he bucked tradition in 2007. The eighth-place starter, he was the first winner to start worse than fifth.” - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Brian Scott Becomes Series’ New ‘Tough Guy’

Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota) isn’t one to let adversity hand him lemons.

In fact, Scott, who won his first series race earlier this season at Dover International Speedway, has done more than make lemonade.

He’s driven the past three races while a broken wrist heals and hardly has missed a beat.

The Idahoan picked up a top five at  Milwaukee and Memphis and finished sixth at Kentucky Speedway despite cutting down a tire early in the race and bouncing off the outside barrier.

Scott stands fifth in series points standings and figures to be a championship contender all the way to the series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

“Really, this finish is just a testament to the determination of this Xpress Motorsports team,” said Scott following his most recent outing. “These guys hung in there and worked their tails off every pit stop to try and get our truck competitive and get me a decent finish. I can’t say enough about their efforts.”

Scott refuses to use his wrist as an excuse. In fact, the 21-year-old competitor sees the injury as motivation.

“My wrist definitely didn’t bother me as much as it had in the last two races.  I don’t know if it has had time to recover or if it’s the difference between a short track and a big track,” he said.  “It’s getting better, but it’s still a little bit of a handicap, really more of a nuisance, a bother.  Maybe I’ll get used to it and I won’t even notice it’s there anymore.”

Loop Data: Not All The Smart Money’s On Hornaday At ORP

Though the statistics suggest – strongly – that Ron Hornaday Jr. will make series history this weekend, another veteran could steal the glory.

Rick Crawford is also strong at ORP, and has as good a shot as any at stopping Hornaday from becoming the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver to win four consecutive races.

Crawford’s last victory was at the Indianapolis track, 72 races ago (Aug. 4, 2006). He has three top 10s in the last four races there and has racked up top-five statistics across the board. At ORP over the last four races, Crawford has a Driver Rating of 112.6 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 6.0 (second), 57 Fastest Laps Run (fourth) and 756 Laps in the Top 15 (94.4%), which is second-best.

But most of the attention will surely shift to Hornaday who is trying to win an unprecedented four straight. It’s the second time he’ll attempt the feat. In 1997, Hornaday won three races in a row, but finished third at Heartland Park Topeka in his bid for four straight (he would go on to win the next two, for five victories in six races).

Winning at ORP seems statistically likely. His numbers there since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 are tops in the series. With an average finish of 2.3 in the last four ORP races, Hornaday has a series-best Driver Rating of 130.5, an Average Running Position of 3.2, a series-high 103 Fastest Laps Run and has run all but three of the 801 laps among the top 15 (his Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 99.6% is also a series-best mark).

Several Do Double Duty At ORP

Both of Billy Ballew Motorsports’ drivers, Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Red Top Auto Auction Toyota) and Aric Almirola (No. 15 Red Top Auto Auction Toyota) will do double duty at O’Reilly Raceway Park.

Busch, of course, leads NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings. Almirola’s ORP best finishes include a 10th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and a sixth in the Nationwide Series.

He’s coming off a fifth-place effort at Kentucky.

“I wish we could race at ORP more than once,” said Almirola. “It’s a racer’s track.”

Hornaday and fellow ORP truck winners Terry Cook and Dennis Setzer also will be in both races.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year AwardStandings:

Rk  Driver                   Points
1.   Tayler Malsam       129
2.   Johnny Sauter        126
3.   James Buescher    115
4.   Ricky Carmichael    85
5.   Brian Ickler             67
6.   J.R. Fitzpatrick       60
7.   Brent Raymer         45
8.   Chris Jones            38
9.   Chase Austin          16
10. Ryan Hackett           5

Etc.

  • Caitlin Shaw, a 19-year-old Albuquerque, N.M., competitor, will make her NASCAR Camping World Truck debut at O’Reilly Raceway Park in the No. 1 Red Horse Racing Toyota. Shaw has competed in USAC’s National Midget Series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet) had his most successful weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The motocross champion qualified third and finished seventh — both series bests. Carmichael also was the leading Raybestos Rookie of the Year finisher.
  • Ron Hornaday Jr.’s hot streak continues Chevrolet’s surge in series Manufacturers’ Championship Standings. Toyota, however, continues to lead Chevrolet by five points, 90 to 85.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2009 Manufacturers' Championship Standings following Race 12 of 25 at Kentucky Speedway:
Toyota    90
Chevrolet 85
Ford       52
Dodge    37

Up Next: Nashville Superspeedway

The NASCAR Nationwide Series has run its two races of 2009 at Nashville Superspeedway. Now it’s time for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ annual Toyota Tundra 200 to test the 1.333-mile track’s concrete surface.

The series has been a fixture in the Music City since 1996 when drivers raced at the .625-mile short track on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Racing moved to Nashville Superspeedway in 2001.

There’s no predicting who will win the Aug. 1 race but one thing is certain: the winner will receive his first trademark Sam Bass-styled guitar since none of the seven previous winners are expected to compete.

Four NASCAR Camping World Truck champions have been to Victory Lane at Nashville including three in their title years.

Mike Bliss won in 2002, the late Bobby Hamilton in 2004 and Johnny Benson in 2008. Travis Kvapil also owns a Nashville Superspeedway win.

The Toyota Tundra 200 is the second of three races to be held in Tennessee this year. The Volunteer State finale will be run later in August at Bristol Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver Award

Don't forget to cast your vote on NASCAR.com!

Fast Facts

Next Race: AAA Insurance 200 presented by J.D. Byrider

The Place: O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis

The Date: Fri, July 24, 2009

The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 200 laps / 137.2 miles

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. (Local, WNDE-AM 1260.)

Track Layout: .686-mile oval

2008 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.

2008 Polesitter: Bobby East

Schedule: Friday—Practice, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and 12:45-2.; Qualifying, 5:05 p.m.

2009 Standings
    Driver                   Points
1   Ron Hornaday Jr. 1,903
2   Matt Crafton        1,807
3   Mike Skinner       1,749
4   Todd Bodine        1,689
5   Brian Scott         1,623
6   David Starr          1,620
7   Tayler Malsam    1,547
8   Terry Cook          1,533
9   Dennis Setzer     1,513
10 Rick Crawford      1,509




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.